First published April 2006 in The Quadrangle
(Canisius College literary magazine)

Dung Wars

We travel together always, my dead father and I, hearing everything, having perfect ears, hearing the slide of a tumbler in the lock of a solid lead door flush within a concrete wall down a dark alley reeking of horse piss. All right, I'm dead but I won't go to heaven, I'm going to go on fucking. The dung flow has got as far as the heart, clogging compassion, which is dangerous and sad, for compassion is the most important one of all. We have a keen sense, a tingling in the genitals that a door has been opened for us and we turn down the alley, overhead a brown flap of canvas wrinkles on the breeze and a vulture lights out working its gangly black wings, the doorknob cold and damp, we turn it, stepping into a downward spiral smelling of country breakfasts, sausage, biscuits, black coffee, fried onions, fried apples, and eggs, a green snake crosses the stair, I pause to avoid stepping on the snake, throwing myself off balance, we roll away from the stairs, into pure darkness, drawing our guns, mine a small black Smith&Wesson 25 automatic, my father's the nickel-plated 357 magnum with the 8 inch barrel, from a launch into pure air humans are defenseless, we are feet first creatures, and the vulture swings under us, lowering us in one smooth motion to a footing, a cold gray beach looking like the Belgian coast, a sludgy black Atlantic roiling in front of us, and out from the fog in the distance the hags come at us slowly, chanting their spells, rattling their jewelry made of bones, we have our own magic, the magic of dreams, wherein I see the world as it was, flying backwards in time, green swaths of summer streaking past followed by the white snow swaths of winter, my pulse racing, a lifetime of smells gathered and re-experienced in seconds, so that time travel is the most painful one, everything made of dirt, finally to the square red brick house on the muddy field between the river, the railroad, and the canal. We spend the day skipping flat stones across the face of the polluted canal, wondering what will become of us. The blue flash, the black cat's tail, the blood of a gutted animal hanging in a tool shed, taking the hunting knives, scoring the fur at the hooves, pulling down, ripping the fur from the body, revealing the pink marbled flesh, a mutilated body strangely sensual in its flawless musculature, the slightly sweet acrid odor of the skinned animal hanging head down, the large round eyes a dull greenish black, the heavy blood-smeared hooks hanging from a rafter, the animal's hind legs pierced in the soft wedge between two bones in the hind quarters, then stepping out of the tool shed into the cold winter night for a piss and a cigarette, then back in, the only light from a naked bulb, the dented gray trash can full of fur and guts, dried blood under your fingernails, and then the dream magic will hit you without warning, transporting you to the summer stream bed, knee deep in cool water, the silver-blue-green bass breaking the water in dramatic leaps, the jewel-like sunnies darting in and out of the swaying green algae. You are fourteen in West Virginia river shallows, a nest of thoughts swarmed over with flies, your mind a foul odor of dead fish and backed up outhouses, taking in your hands and feet, so soft and young, but time travel has informed you, holding the rod and reel, casting into the shadow water beneath the train trestle, the uselessness of authority, the dead soul of ass-kissing careerism, the villainy of family talk, god talk, team talk, country talk. You have a look up the hill above the river to check on the adults. They've lost themselves in tent mending or whiskey or the all day poker match. You whistle to your cousin fishing downstream, with a nod of his head you both reel in, scamper up the mud bank, down the path away from camp, detour to a pine thicket, your cousin moving quickly before you, arriving just behind him, he turns smiling, dropping his pants to his ankles, his cock perfectly erect, he spits on it and begins stroking it. The dream magic hits you just as the warm semen covers your naked thighs, pulling you out again as an actor hauled up on wires from a stage, the force of it stealing your breath, the smell of horse manure, the tingling jolt through your whole body when you piss on the electric fence, the smell of black powder, of burning tires, landing in a body you've never known, blue light, wisps of fog, the foghorns echoing across the mudflats, beginning this story with your name, a fake name of course.

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